The first time I recall someone uttering the word “GIZMO” it was in reference to the cute little animal in the movie Gremlins. But in most recent experiences teacher and student conversations about GIZMOs refers to technology based simulations found at www.explorelearning.com (a fantanstic resource for teachers). These simulations can range from early learning to the high school level and primarily for mathematics and science related curriculum. For the past 2 years, I have been incorporating GIZMOs within my instructional approach. These simulations can be done independently, in groups and as a whole class. Research has shown that utilizing technology based simulations can deepen understanding and improve student learning. I find that my students are involved and active in their learning. They enjoy using them! I truly enjoy using them, I hope you do too.
The following case study is designed for grade 6-8 students who are learning about natural resources, the Earth’s crust, the human impact on our environment, land use, and industries. Students will be deciding whether a copper deposit should be mined in a fictional town based on the information provided to them. I provided my students with a map of the town, a brief history of the town and its economy, and its present situation. Students were then provided with six characters that are affected by a possible mine and there are three “pro” characters and three “con” characters. Students have to read the information and determine whether they agree or disagree with the potential mine; once they have formed an opinion, they are to choose a character that matches their opinion and write a persuasive paper in that character’s voice. The main purpose of the report is to explore issues surrounding the use of natural resources and have students develop critical thinking skills. Students will also learn that the knowledge they gain in school plays an essential role in their everyday lives.
This is a cross-curricular activity that can be used for science, geography/social studies, and Language Arts. Teachers can extend this activity one step further by holding a debate with students taking on the persona of various stakeholders.
Brief Teaching Notes:
Teachers should give students the case study and rubric at the same time; this way, students will understand what is expected of them and how their reports will be marked. Teachers must also explain to students that there is no right or wrong answer to describe what the residents of Drew’s Falls should decide but there are consequences to all choices. It must be clearly explained to students that they are able to choose any of the six characters and their report will be correct as long as they use information and logic to support their reasoning. I also gave my students some time to work on their reports during class, so that they could approach me with any questions they came across while organizing their ideas and writing their actual report. I suggest that teachers make sure that students understand the components of the assignment: the report must be written in the voice of one of the six characters, the report must be persuasive, students must express an opinion and use facts to support their thoughts, and various formats may be used (essay, letter, newspaper article etc).
Here are the student handout and rubric! I hope your class enjoys it!
Brief Teaching Notes:
The following activity is a simple lab that teachers can use when teaching about mining, the Earth’s crust, rocks and minerals, or human land use issues. Depending on the position of this strand within the annual science curriculum, it could potentially be the first lab students experience that year. Reviewing (or even teaching for the first time) the scientific method is useful, even though students are not required to produce a formal lab report upon completion. Using this as one of the first labs of the year helps students practice their skills at following simple procedures, collecting data, analyzing data, and making inferences based on their observations and the data obtained. Students really enjoy this activity as it is one of the few science labs where they are allowed to eat the results! Prior to beginning, however, check for food allergies. If food allergies are present, different cookies can be substituted. Teachers should use their discretion whenever they are dealing with food in the classroom.
In this lab, students must mine as much chocolate from the chocolate chip cookies as possible. In the first attempt, students can break apart and crumble the cookie to extract the “ore,” but in the second case, students must attempt to keep as much of the cookie intact and damage-free. Students will learn the consequences of mining on the environment and how mines must disturb the environment as little as possible.
Materials Required and Instructions:
Each student will need to receive two chocolate chip cookies, 2 paper towels, and 2 toothpicks. Two digital scales will be used to weigh the chocolate.
Explain to students how the chocolate will be mined (draw a diagram of a cookie on the board to demonstrate):
With the first cookie:
1. Look at the first cookie and fill in the first three parts of the chart.
2. Extract as much chocolate from the cookie as possible using toothpicks. You may break the cookie up if you want. Crumbling the cookie is allowed!
3. Weigh the amount of chocolate and the amount of leftover cookie separately. Fill in the next three parts of the chart.
4. Fill in the remainder of the chart. Eat the cookie.
Repeat steps 1 to 4 with the second cookie, but make sure there is as little damage to the cookie part as little as possible. The goal is to leave as much of the cookie intact as possible, while extracting the chocolate.
Feel free to use the following worksheets during this simple and fun lab!
As a science teacher, I am always on the lookout for science websites that will either help me improve my teaching practice or provide excellent classroom resources.
The following is a list of some science organizations and the resources they provide.
Science Teachers Association of Ontario (STAO)
Overall, I found the STAO website to be valuable to me as a science teacher in an elementary school. This last point is of particular interest to me as my elementary colleagues and I are constantly searching for cross-curricular resources, lessons, and activities. Although many of STAO’s resources are only for members, the public access material is quite abundant and pertinent to my teaching. Another interesting point is that it is an Ontario based science website so it is directly connected to the Ontario curriculum documents. I did notice, however, that several of the resources were still based on the previous Ontario curriculum documents, so this is an area that needs a bit of an update.
Alberta Teachers’ Association of Science Council (ATASC)
Members are able to log into a secured database to access unit plans, assignments, tests, lesson plans, lab activities, teacher notes, worksheets, quizzes, and web links. Unfortunately, I could not log in to view these resources, as I am not a member. It does have an unsecured section with a variety of useful science and teaching links. There was however a useful section on Lab Safety that is available to all visitors.
The Science Teachers’ Association of Manitoba (STAM)
STAM’s website is easy for teachers to navigate and the links are categorized according to the clusters for each grade. I find this important as time is valuable and I do not want to spend all my time searching for classroom resources. There is an extensive list of links under the “Resource Links” tab. After exploring the grade 8 science links, I found that there was an excellent variety in the resources provided. Most of the resources are links to various websites, so this would enable teachers to use technology in the classroom more effectively. The resources listed under each cluster include: WebQuests, virtual labs, online guides, hands-on activities, teacher guides, unit plans, activities, videos, and worksheets. I particularly liked the variety of resources because students respond so well to technology in the classroom and it really allows them to explore concepts that are not easy to grasp. STAM’s well-organized website is user friendly and comprehensive.
National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA)
NSELA appears to focus primarily on the development of science education leadership, educational reform, assessment, and systemic change. Based on the previous PD Institutes described on the website, this organization would benefit science resource teachers, department heads, and administrators.
The Association for Science Education (ASE)
ASE has a fantastic website that is valuable to teachers and provides a variety of resources for use. The website is user-friendly and meets the needs of a classroom teacher. I found the teacher resources to be extremely valuable as they incorporated technology, activities, assessment, and theory. The only problem with this website is that since it is based on the U.K. curriculum, teachers need to search for the curriculum units that align with those in Ontario. This was very easy to do, however, and I found great resources on cells that I can use with my grade 8 students. A critical eye is needed to ensure that activities and resources cover Ontario curriculum expectations. Fantastic overall!
Science Across the World
I believe that Science Across the World is a wonderful opportunity for both teachers and students. There are a variety of topics listed for both younger and older students. The whole point of the program is to exchange ideas and findings on the topic by groups of students in various countries. Teachers are to find their own contacts either through Facebook groups, Factworld, eTwinning (Europe only), or English Language Teaching Contacts Scheme. The easiest way for a Canadian School would be through Facebook. Exchanges can take on many formats and be done in a variety of ways (Prezi, vimeo group, Blackboard, Moodle etc). Teachers would be able to bring global perspectives into their classrooms in a way that other forms of media or study would not allow. Students would be given an experience to communicate and learn from students from variety of cultures and backgrounds. Not only would students have a new found appreciate for other cultures, but they will see how other children throughout the world live and learn. Sounds amazing!
National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
NSTA has an excellent website that is easy to use and provides a tremendous amount of PD opportunities for teachers. One thing that I like about this organization in particular is that they understand that teachers may not have the ability to travel to various PD opportunities. These online seminars allow teachers to work at their own pace and choose from an extensive list of topics. NSTA provides links to articles from several journals, including Science and Children, Science Scope, and The Science Teacher, that are thought-provoking and informative. There’s a great list of “Freebies for Science Teachers” to check out!
Of course this list is not exhaustive, so I will be updating it as I visit new sites.
Teachers! What are some great science organizations that I should add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!
Updated to add: Don’t forget to check out “10 Excellent Science Websites” for more resources!